In a world of extraordinary stimuli and animation it is easy to be distracted and live completely disconnected to our most peaceful sense of self and the universal consciousness. It is not brash to say that all the great practices of a spiritual nature have been returned to for generations to remedy the frustrations and sufferings that come from such distractions and disconnection. In the same vein it is constant work requiring constant attention and mindfulness to return to, and with great skill perhaps someday stay connected to our innermost peaceful conscious state of being. One of the foundational texts of yoga is The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali, which lays out the steps for Patanjali’s eight-limbed practice of yoga. Hatha Yoga, the practice of moving the body on the mat also known as the practice of Asana, is just one branch of the eight. The fifth branch is the practice of Pratayahara, simply translating to withdrawal of the senses. All the previous branches of the practice lend a hand to this practice of sense withdrawal being the four practices of outer body yoga, and pratyahara is the first of the four practices of inward body yoga. All eight branches have the shared goal of aligning personal consciousness and awareness to the universal consciousness, which is at the core of all things and is available to everyone at any given moment.
Being composed of two different words, Prati “against” and Ahara “food”, pratyahara is literally translated to mean against food, yet much more is implied. It is a common cliché to say “you are what you eat” and such a phrase is relevant to what is more deeply implied in this practice. Whereas we are literally the energy we take on from the food we eat, the belief structures we build from the impressions that nourish our mind, and the associations we hold in our heart space with the people who nourish our soul. These elements of what we “eat” make up the three levels of ahara (food) that we seek to mediate and temper in the practice of pratyahara.
Rather than taking the loose translation of pratyahara (sense withdrawal) too literally it is valuable to remember the cliché "you are what you eat” and therefor to mindfully abstain from taking in “bad food” as opposed to not eating at all. This type of sense withdrawal provides us with the clarity to more consistently moderate the fluctuations of the mind stuff. Bad food, just as wrong impressions and wrong relationships, are essentially malnourishing and detract or distract us in the pursuit of mindfulness and constant connection to the universal consciousness and the peace that dwells there. By moderating what we “eat” we free the mind to move more deeply within and therefore to strengthen the immunity of the mind. Just as a healthy body can resist illness, a healthy mind can ward off the negative sensory influences around it. Pratyaraha in effect then becomes the medicine that enables one to tolerate and not be moved by the distractions of this animate and sensory world setting the stage for an asana (easy seat) in their pursuit of the next three branches of the yoga, contemplation, concentration, and liberation. The practice of which is also known as meditation.
You are what you eat. Choose wisely.
With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,